Confederate General James Archer

Feb 20, 2005
The Deep South, Alabama
December 19 1817 James Archer born
Confederate General James Archer is born in Harford
County, Maryland.

Archer received his education at Princeton University
and Boston College before serving in the Maryland
volunteers during the Mexican War. He earned a brevet
promotion (an honorary promotion usually given for
battlefield heroism) to major for bravery at the
Battle of Chapultepec during the Mexico City campaign.
After the war, he practiced law until he joined the
U.S. Army in 1855. Archer served in the Pacific
Northwest, and when the SECESSION War broke out, he
joined General John Bell Hood's Texas Brigade in the
Confederate Army.
Archer fought with the Army of Northern Virginia
throughout the war. He earned a promotion to brigadier
general for his gallantry at the Battle of Seven Pines
in June 1862, and his brigade played a key role during
the Seven Days' battles later that month. He was ill
during the army's invasion of Maryland in September
1862, so he relinquished his command for the Battle of
In 1863, Archer marched north to Gettysburg as part
of Henry Heth's division in A.P. Hill's corps. This
placed him in the middle of battle's initial action on
July 1. Archer led an attack on the center of the
Union line on Seminary Ridge that was so successful
that Archer and his men were cut off from the rest of
the Confederates. He was captured, the first
Confederate general from the Army of Northern Virginia
to be captured since Robert E. Lee assumed command on
June 1, 1862. Ironically, Archer's old friend, General
Abner Doubleday, commanded the Union force that
captured Archer. When he saw Archer being led to the
rear, he rode up and extended a handshake and said he
was happy to see his old friend. Archer reportedly
retorted, "Well, I'm not glad to see you by a ****ed
Archer was held at prisons in Ohio and Delaware for
more than a year before he was exchanged in August
1864. After his release, Archer received orders to
return to his old brigade, which was now serving as
part of Hood's Army of Tennessee in Atlanta. Prison
life, however, had compromised his health and his
orders were changed. He was sent instead to the
trenches around Petersburg, Virginia. His health
continued to deteriorate and he died there on October
24, 1864.

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Retired Moderator
Feb 13, 2011
Howard County, Maryland
Bel Air, Maryland born James J. Archer was taken prisoner by the Iron Brigade in Herbst woods at Gettysburg on July 1st, 1863. He was held prisoner at Johson's Island, Ohio and was exchanged sometime before August, 1864. As thea states in their post, he was ordered to report to the Army of Tennessee on August 9th but was sent instead to the Petersburg trenches 10 days later. Suffering from the effects of his imprisonment and the rigors of the Petersburg trenches, including the battle of Peebles' Farm, Archer died on October 24, 1864. There were mentioned reports of "heart trouble" and pleurisy but nothing definitive.
Feb 7, 2011
Madison WI
Archer's only success on July 1,1863 was in getting most of his brigade across Willoughby Run,some 700 yards west of Seminary Ridge,where it was routed by 1st Brigade,1st Corps,AOP.Brockenbrough's and Pettigrew's brigades,plus two brigades(Scales & Perrin) from Pender's Division,smashed the Union line on Seminary Ridge later that day.Archer's brigade did excellent work at Chancellorsville,where it took and held Hazel Grove,the key artillery position on the whole battlefield.
Best regards,
badger roy
Feb 7, 2011
Madison WI
Archer County TX brings back some memories-passed through there on the way to Big Bend National Park many years ago.Some sources have Archer living in Texas for awhile after the Mexican War;his first command was 5th Texas.
Best regards,
badger roy


Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Retired Moderator
Dec 31, 2009
Smack dab in the heart of Texas
Without Archer County and Archer City, we wouldn't have Larry McMurtry, a native and author of IMHO, the best books written about Texas, which turned into some of the best MOVIES about Texas--Lonesome Dove; The Last Picture Show; Horseman, Ride By (Hud); and Lovin' Molly (which was a crappy movie but wonderful book). So in my mind, it's quite worthwhile!
Jan 7, 2017
Archer never recovered after his imprisonment in various locations, but notably at Johnson's Island. His exposure to the harsh winter conditions weakened his health dramatically. According to the Encyclopedia of the Confederacy, Vol. I, after returning to the Army of Northern Virginia to fight in Petersburg, Archer contracted pneumonia (due to the cold and wet conditions) and would later succumb to it.

Tom Elmore

Sergeant Major
Member of the Year
Jan 16, 2015
His brother, Robert Harris "Bob" Archer, was appointed Captain and Acting Adjutant General of the brigade.

Letters of James J. Archer can be found in Maryland Historical Magazine, vol. 56, no. 2, June 1961. Here is one (pp. 148-149):


Miss N. H. Archer
Compliments J. S. Lemmon

Brigade Hd Qrs near Fredericksburg
14th June 1863

My dear Nannie
I wrote to you about two weeks ago pr. flag of truce but perhaps you did not receive my letter - Bob, George Williams & O. H. Thomas were all with me during the fight at Chancellorsville. I need not tell you that they all behaved gallantly for that is a matter of course & what you would know without being told. Gen. Lee on the field and Lt. Gen. Hill since, both congratulated me on the performance of my brigade; I don't know what they say in their official reports. Maj. Gen. Heth, who succeeded Hill after the latter was slightly wounded says in his official report that the battery which I took in the beginning of the fight Sunday morning was the key to the enemy's position and expressed the opinion to me that it decided the day. I had some hard fighting however after that. I was on the extreme right of our division - became engaged long before any of the rest, and the battle was half over before I received the least support, or even got a sight of any other of our troops. I lost in killed and wounded more than a fourth of my brigade but I am satisfied did enough harm to the enemy to compensate a much greater loss. Lemmon and Montgomery were at their posts as Ordnance officer and Surgeon. It is the first time I have kept Lemmon back with the ordnance wagons; he has always before gone with me in fights.
All my staff are with me and well. Our friend Frank Mallory, Col. 55th Va. was killed. You have doubtless heard the death of Duncan McKim killed in same battle. B. D. Fry, formerly adjutant of Voltigeurs in Mex. war & more recently Brig. Gen. under Walker in Nicaragua is now a Colonel commanding 13th Ala. Regt. in my brigade.
Give my best love my dearest Nannie to mother and all at home (in which last word I include Rock Run, Rockland, Cedar Hill, Shamrock) none of whom I have in the least degree forgotten.
Last edited:
Jan 7, 2017
Excellent material. Seems that, like most people that were off to war, Archer was very home-oriented...despite being well-regarded as a fierce and aggressive leader on the field of battle.

His finest moments of the war was at Chancellorsville, in my opinion. As stated, his capture and occupation of Hazel Grove was critical for the Confederate artillery. However, he did not mention in his letter the great leadership that he displayed the day before, on May 2. Archer's Brigade was nearly brought up the rear of the column that would eventually end up as Jackson's flank attack. However, as the line marched on, two divisions of Sickles' III Corps threatened a valuable wagon train. Archer, on his own accord, turned his brigade (with the help of Thomas' Brigade as well) and successfully thwarted the Union advance and saved the supply wagons from capture.


Sergeant Major
Jan 15, 2014
My GGGGrandfather served in Archer's Brigade (13th Alabama), having fought at Chancellorsville, then at Gettysburg, where he was captured on day 3.

From what I understand, Archer was pretty mad when he saw Abner Doubleday because he was beat up (unnecessarily from the account I heard) by a huge dutch sergeant from the Iron Brigade when he was captured.
If I remember correctly, Archer had offered his sword to a captain or LT on the scene, and this officer refused the sword, saying he only needed one sword on that field, and that he could keep his. Then when he arrived at Doubleday's HQ, some staff LT demanded he hand it over. Archer refused, stating that the man who earned it allowed him to keep it. Well, he didn't get to keep it, obviously.
So that might explain a little bit of his anger at Doubleday.

Also, I imagine that he was frustrated with the performance of the Division as a whole that morning, unsupported, unprepared, and poorly deployed as it was.

Heth, God bless him, seems to be somewhat of an example of nepotism. The fiasco on day 1 rest on his and Hill's shoulders, IMO.

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